Hudson passed away last night.
God I hate typing those words. I found out this morning as I was driving my children to school, scrolling through Facebook at a red light. That was a big mistake. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. I looked at Benji and coached myself into protection mode. I would not allow my face to show a thing. I kissed him goodbye, dropped Banyan at the bus stop, got in my car, and fell completely apart.
I queued emotional shut down again when I got home. I had invited my friends (and radio co-hosts from my past life) over for coffee, and I found myself grateful for the distraction. It was lovely to see them again and catch up on their lives. One of them brought her seven month old baby, who brought such a welcome, wonderful energy into my house. Near the end of their visit, my friend (and midwife) stopped by. She’d read about Hudson too, and brought me flowers. She listened as I talked through my thoughts about whether and how to tell Benjamin. Michael and I texted about it, I talked to my sister, my sister-in-law, two other moms of children with cancer, and a grief counselor. I felt resolved in the decision to give Benji the respect of believing that he can handle this information, and of hearing it from me. I decided to pick him up a little early from his after school session with Mrs. Smith, so we’d have some time alone together.
But then, life happened. We stayed after school longer than expected. Benji was begging me to quiz him on multiplication on the way to get Banyan. Before I knew it, I had both boys in the car, and we were discussing who would do his homework at the computer first and which tests Banyan had to study for and what happened in fifth period. Also, I finally got to speak with Michael instead of texting. His voice held reservation. His instincts are solid, so this gave me major pause. I decided to wait. I sent a message to a dear friend who happens to be an amazing therapist. I wanted her counsel.
Before I knew it, it was dinner time, and Michael’s mother and sister came with another delicious meal. Gana had set up a walk over the Ringling Bridge tonight to log miles for our Alex’s Million Mile team, as part of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation‘s efforts to raise childhood cancer awareness in September. We finished dinner and drove to the bridge, and saw a sea of yellow. Gana counted 43 people (and 3 dogs!) who came to walk in solidarity with Benji, and with every child who is somehow chosen to walk this path. We walked, and I caught up with many friends I haven’t seen in way too long. It was a gorgeous sunset that segued into a beautiful stormy night. With everyone’s participation we logged 100 miles for our team.
It was dark when we came home, and my therapist friend and I deduced by texting that we shared a window of opportunity. I drove my car to the gas station to fuel up for tomorrow’s trip over the Skyway and called her. Hers was such a refreshing voice. She asked lots of questions and listened carefully to both extremes of what I was feeling. On one hand, don’t I owe Benji the respect of telling him and believing he can handle it? On the other hand, shouldn’t I protect Benji’s strength and confidence, and do all I can to keep doubt and fear away?
There are so many variables. In total, Benji spent a few hours with Hudson over the course of his treatment. They enjoyed each other’s company immensely, but they weren’t friends beyond the clinic setting. Does Benji need to know? How would he process this? I also realized that I need to separate my own experience from Benji’s. He knows Hudson as a bright sparkly guy with a big smile that loved Ninja Turtles and YouTube. I know Hudson’s story, his relapses, his struggles, his mother, his family, his photographs. Maybe I should keep Benji’s experience as it is? My therapist friend really validated Michael’s instincts: sit with this for a while. We don’t need to tell him right away. We can choose to wait, or choose not to tell him at all. I choose to trust that the answer will come.
When I came home, I told Michael about my conversation with my friend. We were both nodding. For the first time all day, I felt secure in a decision. Sit with this for a while. Living in the moment has become a survival technique for me. In this moment, I don’t have to make this decision. I will never lie to my sons. I will always answer their questions. I will not withhold information I feel they need to have in order to grow. But this…this deserves some time.
Tomorrow, Benji and I will leave at sunrise to cross the Skyway. He will get his third round of escalating Methotrexate during this Interim Maintenance 2 Phase, plus a dose of Vincristine. We’ve prepared his liver as best we can; we hope he doesn’t have a delay due to elevated ALT enzymes. If he does, so be it. These seem like minor worries tonight. That sounds crazy–that my son’s chemotherapy schedule seems like a minor concern. What’s more important tonight, every night, is gratitude for what is.
Tonight, I am thankful for another delicious healthy meal prepared by my mother-in-law.
Tonight, I am thankful for the ears and wisdom of my sister, for my sister-in-law, my friends, my counselors.
Tonight, I am thankful for the deep, strong instincts of my husband.
Tonight, I am thankful for 43 people who chose to spend their evening walking the Ringling Bridge by my boy’s side.
Tonight, I am thankful that Benjamin has gone to school for six consecutive days, full time. This is more, by far, than he went during the entire second half of first grade. He feels terrific. He played two hours of baseball last night and walked two miles across a bridge tonight. When I witness his body in its power and the soul that keeps pace with it, my faith is restored.
Tonight, I am thankful for Hudson. I am thankful for his sparkly smile. I am thankful that he is no longer in pain. I am thankful for his mother, who has set a powerful example for me and for thousands; she has been present for her children like no one I have ever seen. I hope she is able to sleep well tonight, knowing that she filled her son’s entire life with love.
Tonight, I am thankful.